March 2016

A journey of fulfillment
March 2016

Strolling through the tea gardens

A young traveller from Canada with a deep desire to explore the world, set out on a journey on board SriLankan Airlines. Possibly the first and only member of the First Nations to meet the indigenous Veddah community in Sri Lanka, Jeremy Capay shares a page of his travel log.

One day I was debating with Chamith, a friend of mine from Sri Lanka, about where I should travel for my next vacation. I was deciding between Iceland and salmon fishing in British Columbia, Canada. My friend suggested Sri Lanka. After a little consideration, I decided on Sri Lanka, mainly because it would be my first time in Asia.

While I was preparing for my trip, Chamith sought out different excursions for me, and the one that caught my attention was a visit to the Indigenous people of the Veddah tribe. From there on, I tried many times to visualise that meeting but as it would be like nothing I have ever experienced before, all I could do was eagerly anticipate the day.

As I was counting the days til the tour, Chamith informed me that I might meet the Chief of the Veddah tribe. I was thrilled and there was one night I couldn't sleep because I was told I would be the first indigenous person from Canada to meet another indigenous person from Sri Lanka!

After a 24-hour drive from my house in Northwestern Ontario to Toronto airport, my journey unwound before me. During the second leg of my journey, I boarded SriLankan Airlines where I was greeted by the friendly cabin crew. It goes without saying that SriLankan is one of the most culturally exciting and professional airlines I have ever flown with.

When I arrived in Sri Lanka, I started by exploring island life in the Negombo fish market, sightseeing and visiting the historic temples in Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.

Then we stopped at Dambana, an authentic tribal village with houses built with red clay and thatched with palm leaves. The Chiefwas not present at the time I arrived but his son, Mahahurage Putha, welcomed me. We sat together at the porch of his home and talked about how traditional medicine is made. At the time, he was busy making a particular black clay-like formula which could cure poisonous snake bites.

Then came the Chief himself, Uruwarige Vanniyalaththo, with a yellow scarf on his shoulder, symbolisng the extension of a warm welcome. He already knew who I was and it was heartening to see his interest to meet me. Having greeted me traditionally, he took me into his porch to discuss some of the values and traditions of our cultures. Then came the time to exchange gifts. I presented him with a smoking pipe decorated with a stone carved bear attached with two owl feathers, which is called Mahkwa in the Ojibway language. I explained to the Chief that the pipe symbolises peace, courage and protection. In return, he presented me with an axe and a spear made of ebony wood. His gift was an emblem of strength and protection of his people to the extent that it represents the entirety of Sri Lanka.

It also gave me a new understanding of what it means to be alive with other people from different parts of the world as we all work each day to build a future
Then I joined his son and the companions to shoot their bows and arrows. They told me to hit each target with one shot, which I did much to their surprise! Finally, they performed their traditional dance accompanied by a singer in their native language.

Once I had left the village, I no longer felt like a tourist but rather that I was on a journey to make history and to represent all of the First Nation people of Canada. When I boarded SriLankan Airlines again, I felt a great deal of serenity that gave me a new perspective on my life's vision: to accomplish my goals. It also gave me a new understanding of what it means to be alive with other people from different parts of the world as we all work each day to build a future.